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Midnight in Chernobyl
Cover of Midnight in Chernobyl
Midnight in Chernobyl
The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
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A New York Times Best Book of the Year
A Time Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Finalist
One of NPR's Best Books of 2019

Journalist Adam Higginbotham's definitive, years-in-the-making account of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster—and a powerful investigation into how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the twentieth century's greatest disasters.
Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering history's worst nuclear disaster. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers its citizens and the entire world. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in dispute.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history: a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.

Midnight in Chernobyl is an indelible portrait of one of the great disasters of the twentieth century, of human resilience and ingenuity, and the lessons learned when mankind seeks to bend the natural world to his will—lessons which, in the face of climate change and other threats, remain not just vital but necessary.
A New York Times Best Book of the Year
A Time Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Finalist
One of NPR's Best Books of 2019

Journalist Adam Higginbotham's definitive, years-in-the-making account of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster—and a powerful investigation into how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the twentieth century's greatest disasters.
Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering history's worst nuclear disaster. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers its citizens and the entire world. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in dispute.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history: a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.

Midnight in Chernobyl is an indelible portrait of one of the great disasters of the twentieth century, of human resilience and ingenuity, and the lessons learned when mankind seeks to bend the natural world to his will—lessons which, in the face of climate change and other threats, remain not just vital but necessary.
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Adam Higginbotham writes for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, and Smithsonian. The author of Midnight in Chernobyl, he lives in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2018
    The full story of the Chernobyl catastrophe.In April 1986, a massive accident destroyed a reactor at the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station near the town of Pripyat, now a ghost-town tourist destination, in Ukraine. The disaster sent a radioactive cloud across the Soviet Union and Europe, triggered pandemonium and coverups, involved thousands of cleanup workers, and played out at a cost of $128 billion against the secrecy and paranoia of Soviet life at the time. In this vivid and exhaustive account, Higginbotham (A Thousand Pounds of Dynamite, 2014), a contributor to the New Yorker, Wired, GQ, and other publications, masterfully re-creates the emotions, intrigue, and denials and disbelief of Communist Party officials, workers, engineers, and others at every stage. He takes readers directly to the scene: the radioactive blaze, the delayed evacuation of residents from the apartment buildings in "workers' paradise" Pripyat, the treatment of the injured, and the subsequent investigation and "show trial" of scapegoats in a tragedy caused by both reactor failings and operator errors. Drawing on interviews, reports, and once-classified archives, the author shows how the crash program of Soviet reactor building involved design defects, shoddy workmanship, and safety flaws--but made "sanctified icons" of arrogant nuclear scientists. Higginbotham offers incisive snapshots of those caught up in the nightmare, including politicians ignorant of nuclear physics, scientists "paralyzed by indecision," doctors treating radiation sickness, and refugees shunned by countrymen. We experience the "bewildered stupor" of the self-assured power plant director, who asked repeatedly, "What happened? What happened?" and watch incredulously as uninformed citizens hold a parade under a radioactive cloud in Kiev. At every turn, Higginbotham unveils revealing aspects of Communist life, from the lack of proscribed photocopiers to make maps for responders to the threats (shooting, relief of Party card) for failure to obey orders.Written with authority, this superb book reads like a classic disaster story and reveals a Soviet empire on the brink.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    In 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in modern-day Ukraine made headlines around the world. Journalist Higginbotham writes a detailed account of the disaster, complete with firsthand interviews and an extensive bibliography of secondary and primary sources. The narrative tension builds as the author documents what led up to the accident, describing the technology involved in running the plant and how the Soviet Union cut corners when it came to nuclear safety. The heroics of the story are revealed through the actions of ordinary Soviet citizens who fought the resulting fires and cleaned up the radiation sites, which leaves a profound impression on readers. While Chernobyl often gets portrayed as a small piece within the larger collapse of the USSR, this work aims to reset that notion by pointing out that the disaster solidified mistrust toward the Communist Party and Soviet system and that the recovery costs bankrupted the Soviet economy. VERDICT This gripping nonfiction account is highly recommended for Russophiles and fans of real-life dystopias.--Jacob Sherman, John Peace Lib., Univ. of Texas at San Antonio

    Copyright 1 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Midnight in Chernobyl
Midnight in Chernobyl
The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
Adam Higginbotham
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